I have said in previous newsletters that the times were changing, and marijuana legalization is going to happen at a quicker pace than a lot of people have predicted. Recently Charles Schumer, the senate majority leader, announced he would be pushing legislation to end the federal prohibition on marijuana. Not only is he pushing for the legislation, but he is making the change one of his top priorities. I have been very public about the need to legalize cannabis but that legalization needs to take place while also setting forth to right the wrongs that have been suffered by it criminalization. It is extremely important that as headway is made in finally legalizing the drug the people that suffered incarceration and more receive some type of restitution. That being said it is important that we keep a close eye on the happenings around this bill.
Right now the bill is just a “discussion draft” so it’s more than likely that changes will occur to it before it is introduced. For now, the bill addresses a few things that we at Gas God’s have spoken about although it could definitely do more. The bill would remove cannabis from the federal controlled substances act. Currently marijuana is listed as a Schedule I drug which is defined as having no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Removing it from the federal controlled substance act would open doors for the drug to be tested in the medical filed at a greater level which is an important step we spoke about during mental health month. The bill would take a portion of tax revenue created by the sale of marijuana and place it into a fund for research into cannabis and its effects.
The bill also proposes that all federal nonviolent cannabis-related criminal records be immediately expunged as well as a portion of tax revenue be put towards restorative justice programs for communities impacted by the decade’s long “War on Drugs”. I’ve said from the beginning that this is the least that needs to be done since the police and justice system have ravaged our communities under the guise of the war on drugs. The important thing to do is pay attention to what restorative justice programs are implemented because all programs are not the same.
The bill would have the FDA regulate the production, distribution, and sale of cannabis as well as as impose a tax on the drug like it is done for alcohol and tobacco. With that comes revenue which will benefit a number of states which leads me to on of the las t major point of the bill. States would be allowed to outline their own legalization laws, which could include prohibition. It is important we pay attention to how these states are going to proceed. The laws in this country at the state and federal level have not been fair when it comes to the application of punishment for my community and there is no reason to believe that one bill will change that overnight. It is important that we pay attention to those representatives here in Texas that are for the change in the law and those that will still fight against it to appease their base.
All things considered it is still going to be an uphill battle for this bill going forward. Even if all of the democrats in the Senate vote in favor of it there will still need to be at least 10 republicans on board to move it forward and, given the current political climate, that could take effort. Even if that were to happen and the bill made it through congress it would have to be approved by a president that has gone on record to be in favor of decriminalization as opposed to legalization.
All in all, as I have said, legalization is coming. Legalization is coming at a quicker pace than a lot of people have predicted. We still need to pay attention to the changes and laws so that we can maximize the benefits for our communities and make sure that we are not left behind as the cannabis world moves forward.